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Window to Perfection

By Karl Funke
Photography: Robert Hallstrom

After nearly two years of painstaking restoration, Dane Gladden's 23-Window Bus is now set to turn heads wherever it rolls.
Easily the most utilitarian of the original VW models, the Type II, or "Bus" as most of us know it, enjoys a niche all its own in the world of automotive enthusiasm. While the Beetle's universal appeal lies simultaneously in both its role as a historical icon and a shoestring-budget hot rod, the Bus exudes an aura of appeal that even its most enthusiastic supporters can't exactly put a finger on. They like them because, well...because they're Buses, and there really hasn't been any other vehicle quite like them in the annals of automotive history. One such enthusiast is Valencia, California, resident Dane Gladden, owner of this fine 1958 23 Window.

Gladden is not new to the VW scene. In 1998 Dane found himself wanting a VW Bus in the worst sort of way. "I've just always liked the overall look of a Bus," Gladden said. "There's not a lot of them out there, so when you see one out on the road you really take notice."

To relieve the fever, he purchased a 1967 Sea Blue and White 21-Window which he sent directly to Lenny Copp of West Coast Classic Restoration in Fullerton, Calif., for a full, detailed cleanup. While the end product was as good as they come, for some reason this Bus didn't do it totally for Gladden and a short time later he asked Lenny to sell it for him.

Our story now jumps ahead to 2001. Amid the chaos that followed the tragic events of September 11, Gladden saw the stock market tanking badly with no hopeful end in sight, so he sold off a good portion of his more volatile portfolio holdings and invested the hard cash in precious metals--that is, the kind of precious metals cast and pressed on the assembly lines in Wolfsburg. Collaborating with WCCR's Copp, Gladden laid plans to purchase three more vintage Type II hulks for pan-up restoration. According to Copp, Gladden gave him cash up front with a simple request: find, buy and restore three more vintage Type II vehicles. The Bus pictured here, a 1958 23-Window, is the first of those projects to come to fruition. The other two, currently works in progress, are a 1960 23-Window, which will be the next to be completed, and a 1960 Double Cab.

A confirmed vintage enthusiast, Dane naturally wanted this Bus to be as close to it's factory fresh state as WCCR could make it. "I told Lenny to make it as original as possible," he said. "I even had him keep the original 36-hp engine." Since WCCR is a one-stop restoration shop, Copp and his crew got busy on all aspects. Rafael Gutierrez, WCCR's top guy, spent days stripping the Bus to its components and prepared the sheetmetal for a trip to the body shop. Probably no other vehicle in history is more labor intensive when it comes to getting the panels straight, but WCCR's body-buffing brothers Shorty and Hugo got busy on the body and paint. Glazurit Line 22 paint was employed to give the Bus its beautiful two-tone finish, L-53 Sealing Wax Red and L-73 Chestnut Brown.

When the paintwork was finished the Bus went to WCCR's upholstery shop. Upholstery artisan Alex Hernandez began with a genuine German wool headliner. If you look closely, you can see the seams on the liner below the side windows; not many people know that this is the way the original headliner was made, but it goes to show the level of detail that went into this Bus. Hernandez also replicated the original interior upholstery to return the seats, carpeting and interior panels as close to their original state as humanly possible. The seats and panels were skinned in light brown and beige vinyl, while the carpet in the rear is actual German Square Weave like the factory used--nothing else will do. New moldings were used on all the panels, and to finish it all off the upholsterer covered the sunroof with new brown German canvas.

At the time of this writing the restoration is less than a month complete. Gladden's newest 23-Window wonder made its public debut at WCCR's own open house February 7, and then reappeared a week later at Charlie Hamill's OCTO meet.

Gladden would like to thank Nate Muholland and the crew at West Coast Classic Restoration for helping his dream come true. This one he says is a definite keeper, and he's currently scrambling to make room in his garage so he can store it properly. The next two projects will be built as drivers, with select highway friendly technical improvements like more displacement updated swing axle trannies. He won't have to wait very long; Copp tells us the next one will be going into the paint shop very soon. We'd say it's a fair assessment to label Dane Gladden as one of the luckiest guys we know. Most would be happy with just one of these 23 Windows--nevermind two 23s and a Double Cab. We can't wait to see what comes out of the other two.

The biggest challenge for anyone restoring a Type 2 is making sure the sides are straight. Smoothing out the long, broad sheets of metal is definitely not for a beginner.
WCCR really is a one-stop shop for the vintage resto enthusiast. Upholstery artisan Alex Hernandez replicated the original interior color scheme using all new materials and carpeting.
It doesn't boast a lot of power, because the original 36-horse motor was cleaned up and rebuilt to completely factory specs. The Bus may not have a lot of power, but we guarantee it drives just the way it did in 1958.

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2005 VW Trends, a PRIMEDIA publication. All rights reserved.